It's almost time for mini-camp, which means that there will soon be some real, actual football news to report on in a few weeks. But until then, let's keep going on our countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2016.
The list so far:
20. The New England Patriots trade Jamie Collins to Cleveland for a bag of peanuts.
19. LeGarrette Blount runs through the entire Seahawks line on his way to the end zone.
18. A Chris Long strip sack helps to ice the game against the New York Jets.
17. The Patriots defense shuts down Trevor Siemian and the Denver Broncos on the road.
16. LeGarrette Blount owns Byron Maxwell with an epic hurdle.
15. A different kind of Malcolm Go highlights a convincing road win against the San Francisco 49ers.
14. Chris Hogan finds some nice redemption against his old team in the form of a beautiful 53 yard TD.
Sometimes, you barely even need to recap a play, as that play more or less speaks for itself. The Number 13 moment just so happens to be one of those plays.
13. Shea McClellin leaps the line to block a FG against the Baltimore Ravens.
Patriots vs. Ravens. Always a battle. And while the Ravens haven't quite been the powerhouse there were in years past, everybody knows that when New England plays Baltimore, it's going to be a tough, grind-it-out game that's very likely going to come down to the wire. The Week 14 matchup that saw Baltimore travel to Gillette Stadium didn't look like it was going to be close, but due to a few costly special teams errors, it ended up being much closer than it probably should have been. It's to be expected at the end of the day; New England and Baltimore have been going at it for years now.
And while the Patriots ended up coming away with at 30-23 win, who knows how the game would have ended up if not for a crucial play late in the 1st quarter. The Patriots, unable to get anything going on offense, went three and out on their first two possessions. However, a stout defense and great penetration by Malcom Brown generated a safety when Brown tackled Kenneth Dixon in the end zone to put the Patriots up 2-0. New England still couldn't do anything with the ball offensively, however, and punted it right back to the Ravens after the free kick. Baltimore took the ball from their own 20 and drove all the way down to the New England 16 yard line before the drive finally stalled. The Ravens sent the field goal unit out to attempt a 34 yarder.
Up until this point in the season, Justin Tucker had yet to miss a kick of any kind. In a year in which kickers league-wide were struggling tremendously, Tucker remained absolutely lights out and as close to automatic as it gets. And a 34 yard field goal was more or less a chip shot.
As Tucker lined up for the kick, linebacker Shea McClellin perfectly timed the snap and leapt over the center just as the ball was released. He cleared the center completely with no contact, making the play 100% legal, and was in the backfield before Tucker could even begin his motions. McClellin made the block, giving New England the ball at their own 26 with the 2-0 lead in tact. The Patriots would then go on to generate a 10 play, 74 yard drive that ended with a LeGarrette Blount TD to put the Patriots up 9-0. It was a lead they would never relinquish as they would go on to improve to 11-2 on the year as the Ravens dropped to 7-6.
We'll never now for sure, but who knows what would have happened if the Ravens had taken a 3-2 lead there. I can't say that the Ravens might have won...but if one thing holds true when it comes to these games, it's that momentum is everything. This block kept the momentum firmly on the Patriots side of the table and allowed them to build up enough of a lead to overcome some late mistakes and walk away with a huge AFC win. So not only was that play a massive part of this victory, it was a great individual effort and a staple on 2016 NFL highlight reels. It's spot at Number 13 is well-deserved.
Sadly, this will almost certainly be the last time I get to place this kind of play in my countdown of Patriots Top Moments, as we all know how it goes by now: the Patriots do something against the Ravens that helps them win the game, and it suddenly becomes against the rules the following year. So I'm glad I was able to get this one in a final time, as the jump over the center to block a field goal play is the ultimate display of athleticism, timing, and ability. It's also the kind of play that can completely change the course of a game.
Check out the play here.